Nat Torkington

Nat has chaired the O'Reilly Open Source Convention and other O'Reilly conferences for over a decade. He ran the first web server in New Zealand, co-wrote the best-selling Perl Cookbook, and was one of the founding Radar bloggers. He lives in New Zealand and consults in the Asia-Pacific region.

Four short links: 18 July 2014

Four short links: 18 July 2014

Design Reviews, Gaudy Palette, Web Components, and Creative Coding

  1. Questions to Ask when Reviewing a Design (GDS) — GDS made stickers, but I might just put this in poster form on the wall. They missed, “can you make it pop?” though.
  2. Saturated — wonderfully unsubdued web palette for prototyping. Nobody will ask “can you make it pop?” with this colour scheme.
  3. Component Kitchen — and customelements are both catalogues of web components.
  4. Summer Immersive 2014 (GitHub) — curriculum and materials for a ten week program devoted to learning the art of creative coding. (via Shawn Allen)
Comment: 1
Four short links: 17 July 2014

Four short links: 17 July 2014

Software Ethics, Learning Challenges, Workplace Harassment, and Logging for Postmortems

  1. Misjudgements Will Drive Social Trials Underground (Nature) — 34 ethicists write to explain why they see Facebook’s mood-influence trials as not an egregious breach of either ethics or law. Notable: No one knows whether exposure to a stream of baby announcements, job promotions and humble brags makes Facebook’s one billion users sadder or happier. The exposure is a social experiment in which users become guinea pigs, but the effects will not be known unless they are studied.[...] But the extreme response to this study, some of which seems to have been made without full understanding of what it entailed or what legal and ethical standards require, could result in such research being done in secret or not at all. Compare wisdom of the ethicists to wisdom of the crowd. (via Kate Crawford)
  2. Problem-Free Activity in the Mathematics Classroom (PDF) — interesting not just for the bland crap work we make kids do, but for the summary of five types of need that stimulate learning: for certainty (“which of the two is right?”), for causality (“did X cause Y?”, “what will happen next?”), for computation (“how much will it cost?”, “how long will it take?”), for communication and persuasion (“it’s more fun when we work on this together”, “let me show you why I’m right!”), and for connection and structuring (“that can’t be right, it goes against all I know!”, “ah, that makes sense because …”). (via Kathy Sierra)
  3. Survey of Academic Field Experiences (PLoSone) — Our survey revealed that conducting research in the field exposes scientists to a number of negative experiences as targets and as bystanders. The experiences described by our respondents ranged from inadvertent alienating behavior, to unwanted verbal and physical sexual advances, to, most troublingly, sexual assault including rape. is immediately followed by These proportions of respondents experiencing harassment are generally consistent with other studies of workplace harassment in other professional settings. This will change when men’s behaviour and expectations change. Male readers, do your part: don’t harass and don’t tolerate it. This message brought to you from future generations who will wonder how the hell we turned a blind eye to it.
  4. sentry (github) — a realtime, platform-agnostic error logging and aggregation platform. It specializes in monitoring errors and extracting all the information needed to do a proper post-mortem without any of the hassle of the standard user feedback loop.
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Four short links: 16 July 2014

Four short links: 16 July 2014

Distributed Systems Design 101, Patent Trolls, Intel's Half a Billion from IoT, and Google's Project Zero.

  1. Inside bit.ly’s Distributed Systems — this is a 101 for modern web distributed systems design.
  2. Patent Trolls are Now 67% of New Patent Lawsuits in USA (WaPo) — data from PwC.
  3. Intel Made Half a Billion from Internet of Things Last Year (Quartz) — half a billion here, half a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.
  4. Google’s Project Zero (Wired) — G pays a team to attack common software and report the bugs to the manufacturer. Interesting hypothesis about how the numbers inbalance between Every Russian 14 Year Old and this small team doesn’t matter: modern hacker exploits often chain together a series of hackable flaws to defeat a computer’s defenses. Kill one of those bugs and the entire exploit fails. That means Project Zero may be able to nix entire collections of exploits by finding and patching flaws in a small part of an operating system, like the “sandbox” that’s meant to limit an application’s access to the rest of the computer. ”On certain attack surfaces, we’re optimistic we can fix the bugs faster than they’re being introduced,” Hawkes says. “If you funnel your research into these limited areas, you increase the chances of bug collisions.”
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Four short links: 15 July 2014

Four short links: 15 July 2014

Data Brokers, Car Data, Pattern Classification, and Hogwild Deep Learning

  1. Inside Data Brokers — very readable explanation of the data brokers and how their information is used to track advertising effectiveness.
  2. Elon, I Want My Data! — Telsa don’t give you access to the data that your cars collects. Bodes poorly for the Internet of Sealed Boxes. (via BoingBoing)
  3. Pattern Classification (Github) — collection of tutorials and examples for solving and understanding machine learning and pattern classification tasks.
  4. HOGWILD! (PDF) — the algorithm that Microsoft credit with the success of their Adam deep learning system.
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Four short links: 14 July 2014

Four short links: 14 July 2014

Scanner Malware, Cognitive Biases, Deep Learning, and Community Metrics

  1. Handheld Scanners Attack — shipping and logistics operations compromised by handheld scanners running malware-infested Windows XP.
  2. Adventures in Cognitive Biases (MIT) — web adventure to build your cognitive defences against biases.
  3. Quoc Le’s Lectures on Deep Learning — Machine Learning Summer School videos (4k!) of the deep learning lectures by Google Brain team member Quoc Le.
  4. FLOSS Community Metrics Talks — upcoming event at Puppet Labs in Portland. I hope they publish slides and video!
Comment: 1
Four short links: 11 July 2014

Four short links: 11 July 2014

Curated Code, Hackable Browser, IoT Should Be Open, and Better Treemaps

  1. Awesome Awesomeness — list of curated collections of frameworks and libraries in various languages that do not suck. They solve the problem of “so, I’m new to (language) and don’t want to kiss a lot of frogs before I find the right tool for a particular task”.
  2. Breach — a hackable, modular web browser.
  3. The CompuServe of Things (Phil Windley) — How we build the Internet of Things has far-reaching consequences for the humans who will use—or be used by—it. Will we push forward, connecting things using forests of silos that are reminiscent the online services of the 1980′s, or will we learn the lessons of the Internet and build a true Internet of Things? (via Cory Doctorow)
  4. FoamTree — nifty treemap layouts and animations, in Javascript. (via Flowing Data)
Comment: 1
Four short links: 10 July 2014

Four short links: 10 July 2014

Journalism Security, Inclusive Technology, Network Magic, and Python Anti-Patterns

  1. Ex-Google Hacker Taking On The World’s Spy Agencies (Wired) — profile of the security expert working on protecting reporters.
  2. Meet Google’s Security Princess (Elle) — would have preferred to see her story in Wired. Much is good here, but this is pithy and strong: “If you have ambitions to create technology for the whole world, you need to represent the whole world, and the whole world is not just white men.”
  3. snabb switch — open source Linux userspace executable for making network appliances. Processes millions of ethernet packets per second per core. Suitable for ISPs. Speaks natively to Ethernet hardware, Hypervisors, and the Linux kernel. You can program it with LuaJIT extensions to do anything you want.
  4. Anti-Patterns in Python Programming — gold.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 9 July 2014

Four short links: 9 July 2014

Developer Inequality, Weak Signals, Geek Feminism Wiki, and Reidentification Risks

  1. Developer Inequality (Jonathan Edwards) — The bigger injustice is that programming has become an elite: a vocation requiring rare talents, grueling training, and total dedication. The way things are today if you want to be a programmer you had best be someone like me on the autism spectrum who has spent their entire life mastering vast realms of arcane knowledge — and enjoys it. Normal humans are effectively excluded from developing software. (via Slashdot)
  2. Signals From Foo Camp (O’Reilly Radar) — useful for me (aka “the stuff I didn’t get to see”), hopefully useful to you too. Companies outside of Silicon Valley badly want to understand it and want to find ways to truly collaborate with it, but they’re worried that conversations can turn into competition. “Old industry” has incredible expertise and operates in very complex environments, and it has much to teach tech, if tech will listen. Silicon Valley isn’t an IT department for the world, it’s the competition.
  3. Feminist Point of View: Lessons from Running the Geek Feminism Wiki — deck from Alex’s OS Bridge session. Today’s awareness and actions around sexism in tech resulted from their actions, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly.
  4. Big Data Should Not Be a Faith-Based Initiative (Cory Doctorow) — Re-identification is part of the Big Data revolution: among the new meanings we are learning to extract from huge corpuses of data is the identity of the people in that dataset. And since we’re commodifying and sharing these huge datasets, they will still be around in ten, twenty and fifty years, when those same Big Data advancements open up new ways of re-identifying — and harming — their subjects.
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Four short links: 8 July 2014

Four short links: 8 July 2014

Virtual Economies, Resource UAVs, Smarter Smaller Crowds, and Scaling Business

  1. Virtual Economies — new book from MIT Press on economics in games. The book will enable developers and designers to create and maintain successful virtual economies, introduce social scientists and policy makers to the power of virtual economies, and provide a useful guide to economic fundamentals for students in other disciplines.
  2. Resource Industry UAV Conference Presentations — collection of presentations from a recent resources industry conference. Includes UaaS: UAVs as a Service. (via DIY Drones)
  3. The Wisdom of Smaller, Smarter Crowdsin domains in which some crowd members have demonstrably more skill than others, smart sub-crowds could possibly outperform the whole. The central question this work addresses is whether such smart subsets of a crowd can be identified a priori in a large-scale prediction contest that has substantial skill and luck components. (via David Pennock)
  4. Larry and Sergey with Vinod (YouTube) — see transcription. I really liked Page’s point about scaling the number of things that companies do, and the constraints on such scaling.
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Four short links: 7 July 2014

Four short links: 7 July 2014

GV Library, Blockchain Equity, Organisation Anti-Patterns, and Cognitive Biases in Software Engineering

  1. Google Ventures Library — collection of design, engineering, founder docs.
  2. SWARM — crypto equity. Stock via the blockchain. (via Jesse Vincent)
  3. Organisational Anti-Patterns (Leigh Honeywell) — failure modes involving power and labour.
  4. Cognitive Biases in Software Engineering (Jonathan Klein) — failure modes for estimations, testing, and evaluations explained with psychology. Because brains.
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